Last time we left Oz it was to the sound of Munchkins singing “Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!” and Dorothy floating away with the wizard in a big hot-air balloon back to Kansas.
Cowardly Lion had found his courage, Tin Man had his heart back and Scarecrow’s brain was back where it belonged. The Wicked Witch of the West was dead and everything worked out fine. Or so we were led to believe. Wicked tells the tale of how things really turned out, starting with an unlikely friendship between The Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch of the North.
If you were a Wizard of Oz fan during childhood then Emily Tierney’s Glinda perhaps isn’t quite how you remember the Good Witch. She’s prissy, self-obsessed, arrogant and spoiled and Tierney plays the role with the perfect degree of self-depreciation. You know you’re meant to hate Glinda but it’s very hard, if not impossible, to hate Tierney’s Witch.
On the other hand it’s also hard not to feel sympathy for Nikki Davis-Jones’s Wicked Witch of the West, or Elphaba as she’s introduced to us. Green skin aside she’s not very witch-like when she’s first dragged onto the stage by her father as an unloved bookish teenager accompanying her sister to boarding school.
Things soon change when her teacher, Madame Morrible, discovers her talent for magic. Davis-Jones takes the unpopular green teen from social awkwardness to the most terrifying woman in Oz via a turbulent romance with bad boy Flyero (Liam Doyle).
Tierney and Davis-Jones deliver on the big hits of Wicked wonderfully, in particular the show-stopping Defying Gravity, which culminates in Elpheba sweeping up to the roof of the Millennium Centre to escape her would-be captors.
Tierney also performs a nice turn with Popular, and there are some heart-warming moments with As Long As You’re Mine and For Good.
It’s sometimes said there is a worry for Wizard of Oz fans that Wicked will ruin memories of their favourite childhood tale, but that shouldn’t even be a concern.
Wicked is its own beast, an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular alternate history of sorts and the cast at the Millennium Centre pull it off brilliantly.
So forget Judy Garland and her ruby slippers, this is a tale of two girls (who also happen to be witches) taking a stand against an authoritarian regime and coming out on top. The message doesn’t get lost among the endless brilliant songs, stunning choreography and dazzling special effects, but the if you’re in the audience there’s a good chance you will.
Wicked on tour is running at the Millennium Centre until Saturday April 26. Tickets are priced from £20 to £52.50 and can be purchased from the website or by phone on 029 2063 6464.